27 April 2018 by Roy Preece
A host of Sky Lanterns rising into the night sky are undoubtedly a beautiful sight. But are they safe? Should they be banned even? A proposal by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland to launch Chinese lanterns as part of a light festival at their Belvoir Castle (literally ‘beautiful view’) has met opposition from farming interests and the fire brigade. As well as possibly setting fire to haystacks and thatched cottages or fields of wheat the remains of the lanterns are a hazard to farm animals which may swallow them when grazing, and even to sea animals.
Yet Chinese have used Sky Lanterns for thousands of years and traditionally they were believed to carry wishes and prayers to the gods. The answer may lie in the ways they are made. Traditional lanterns are made of bamboo and paper and are powered by the heat from burning paper money, which does not last long. Modern western lanterns may be made from wire and plastic and be powered by candles. So, true Chinese lanterns are biodegradable and do not travel far. Modern lanterns do not degrade and may travel far.
The Duke claims his lanterns will not travel further than 500 yards and so will come down within the bounds of the venue. The lantern company say their lanterns are biodegradable and are designed not to travel far. Pingxi Sky Lanterns by Snowflake Books is a charming tale of the origins of the Chinese Sky Lantern Festival.